I believe there are many factors involved including:
- Kids watch more TV now than ever before
- Children spend hours a day playing video games and other electronics
- Physical Education is being cut in schools nationwide
- Parents are less likely to let their children play outside freely and roam the neighborhood
- Kids are fatter today than any previous decade which makes physical exercise less enjoyable
- Many kids eat more junk food and less whole foods which decreases energy levels
- Kids are more dysfunctional than ever before
I want to expand on that last point: kids are more dysfunctional than ever before. What does dysfunctional mean? Not posturally aligned. Kids today look a lot more like this:
To illustrate how postural imbalances lead to inefficient movement, look at the two pictures below:
The boy with the green shirt is showing a similar pattern of swinging his left leg across the midline of his body rather than straight ahead. His left foot is very turned out (everted) during swing phase which creates torsion in the knee joint and will create excessive stress on his ankle and foot when he strikes the ground. This gait pattern often leads to landing with the foot excessively supinated and then progresses to excessive pronation and foot eversion at toe off as seen in his right foot. His upper body is trying to counterbalance the inefficient leg movement and creates the arm swing seen above: forward swinging arm crosses midline of body and backward swinging arm flares out to the side excessively.
All these movement patterns are a waste of energy, create stress on the tissues of the body, and make exercise less fun. Faulty running gait like this comes from postural misalignments and can not be fully corrected by coaching or training the kids to run with better form. The underlying muscular imbalances must be corrected and when they are natural, smooth and efficient running form will naturally return…as will the kids' smiles as running and exercise become fun again.
When the body is posturally aligned, movement and exercise become fun, which leads to active play and less time for inactive play like video games and TV. I believe this is one of the (very overlooked) keys to rescuing this generation from the downward health spiral that they are in and getting their body fat and running times down to that of their parents…or maybe even better!